When I was in Ireland someone mentioned that the Irish are the most charitable people in the world. While totally believable, it turns out they aren’t.
However in periodic surveys conducted on global giving, the Irish seem to consistently rank near the top for making donations to charitable organizations, volunteering, and helping strangers. In a 2013 survey, the Irish were the most charitable people in Europe and in a 2014 survey, they ranked third in the world. This is especially remarkable considering Ireland has not only had to contend with the global recession and housing market crash, it has also suffered painful austerity measures enforced by the European Union as part of the bailout package.
Their comment on all this? “Connecting with people and a generosity of spirit is inherent in our culture.”
Indeed. Generosity and hospitality are embedded in Irish history and heritage. When the Tuatha Dé, Ireland’s spiritual ancestors, arrived they brought with them four sacred gifts. One was the Cauldron of Plenty that supplied an endless bounty of food and drink, and from which no one went away hungry. This was arguably the seed of a cauldron culture in which these vessels would become mythical and legendary sources of abundance, wisdom, inspiration, poetry, and artistry. Whether actual or metaphorical, the essential nature of these cauldrons is reflected in actions of the Irish people through history into modern times.
I write this as the US congress just passed a horrific ‘health care’ bill. It’s beyond vile, but it’s just the latest in a spumy cauldron of toxic and hateful legislation from which millions of Americans will go away sick, homeless, uneducated, hungry, and living in pollution. Struggling to understand how these politicians could perpetrate such inhumane conditions for their people, I have come to understand that they don’t think of most Americans as their people. They don’t consider most Americans to be deserving of a hand out or a hand up or basic human rights. If you are sick, unemployed, and struggling financially it’s your fault. Pull yourself up by your own bootstraps. Every man for himself. I got mine, you get yours.
Ours is a history and heritage of rugged individualism. It is a ‘me’ culture, not a ‘we’ culture. There are no cauldrons of plenty in our mythological landscape. If only there were. If only we were a cauldron culture.
Judith – firstname.lastname@example.org